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exactly as it had before. 3rd. Nor, thirdly, does it abate the interest or inclination of ministers to apply that influence to the electors:
on the contrary, it renders it much more necessary to them, if they seek to have a majority in parliament, to increase the means of that influence, and redouble their diligence, and to sharpen dexterity in the application. The whole effect of the bill is therefore the removing the application of some part of the influence from the elected to the electors, and further to strengthen and extend a court interest already great and powerful in boroughs ; here to fix their magazines and places of arms, and thus to make them the principal, not the secondary, theatre of their mancuvres for securing a determined majortiy in parliament.
I believe nobody will deny that the electors are corruptible. They are men ; it is saying nothing worse of them; many of them are but ill-informed in their minds, many feeble in their circumstances, easily overreached, easily seduced. If they are many, the wages of corruption are the lower; and would to God it were not rather a contemptible and hypocritical adulation than a charitable sentiment, to say that there is already no debauchery, no corruption, no bribery, no perjury, no blind fury, and interested faction among the electors in many. parts of this kingdom : nor is it surprising, or at all blameable, in that class of private men, when they see their neighbours aggrandized, and themselves poor and virtuous, without that eclat or dignity which attends men in higher stations.
But admit it were true that the great mass of the electors were too vast an object for court influence to grasp, or extend to, and that in despair they must abandon it; he must be very ignorant of the state of every popular interest, who does not know that in all the corporations, all the open boroughs, indeed in every district of the kingdom, there is some leading man, some agitator, some wealthy merchant, or considerable manufacturer, some active attorney, some popular preacher, some money-lender, &c. &c. who is followed by the whole flock. This is the style of all free countries.
Multùm in Fabiâ valet hic, valet ille Velina;
Cuilibet hic fasces dabit eripietque curule. These spirits, each of which informs and governs his own little orb, are neither so many, nor so little powerful, nor so incorruptible, but that a minister may, as he does frequently, find means of gaining them, and through them all their followers. To establish, therefore, a very general influence among electors will no more be found an impracticable project, than to gain an undue influence over members of
parliament. Therefore I am apprehensive that this bill, though it shifts the place of the disorder, does by no means relieve the constitution. I went through almost every contested election in the beginning of this parliament, and acted as a manager in very many of them; by which, though at a school of pretty severe and rugged discipline, I came to have some degree of instruction concerning the means by which parliamentary interests are in general procured and supported.
Theory, I know, would suppose, that every general election is to the representative a day of judgment, in which he appears before his constituents to account for the use of the talent with which they intrusted him, and of the improvement he had made of it for the public advantage. It would be so, if every corruptible representative were to find an enlightened and incorruptible constituent. But the practice and knowledge of the world will not suffer us to be ignorant, that the constitution on paper is one thing, and in fact and experience is another. We must know that the candidate, instead of trusting at his election to the testimony of his behaviour in parliament, must bring the testimony of a large sum of money, the capacity of liberal expense in entertainments, the power of serving and obliging the rulers of corporations, of winning over the popular leaders of political clubs, associations, and neighbourhoods. It is ten thousand times more necessary to show himself a man of power, than a man of integrity, in almost all the elections, with which I have been acquainted. Elections, therefore, become a matter of heavy expense; and if contests are frequent, to many they will be come a matter of an expense totally ruinous, which no fortunes can bear; but least of all the landed fortunes, incumbered as they often, indeed as they mostly are, with debts, with portions, with jointures; and tied up in the hands of the possessor by the limitations of settlement. It is a material, it is in my opinion a lasting, consideration, in all the questions concerning election. Let no one think the charges of election a trivial matter.
The charge, therefore, of elections ought never to be lost sight of, in a question concerning their frequency; because the grand object you seek is independence. Independence of mind will ever be more or less influenced by independence of fortune ; and if, every three years, the exhausting sluices of entertainments, drinkings, open houses, to say nothing of bribery, are to be periodically drawn up and renewed :--if government favours for which now, in some shape or other, the whole race of men are candidates, are to be called for upon every occasion, I see that private fortunes will be washed away,
every, even to the least, trace of independence, borne
down by the torrent. I do not seriously think this constitution, even
year. It will be said, I do not allow for the operation of character; but I do; and I know it will have its weight in most elections ; perhaps it may be decisive in some. But there are few in which it will prevent great expenses.
The destruction of independent fortunes will be the consequence on the part of the candidate. What will be the consequence of triennial corruption, triennial drunkenness, triennial idleness, triennial law-snits, litigations, prosecutions, triennial phrenzy, of society dissolved, industry interrupted, ruined; of those personal hatreds that will never be suffered to soften; those animosities and feuds, which will be rendered immortal; those quarrels, which are never to be appeased; morals vitiated and grangrened to the vitals? I think no stable and useful advantages were ever made by the money got at elections by the voter, but all he gets is doubly lost to the public; it is money given to diminish the general stock of the community, which is the industry of the subject. I am sure that it is a good while before he or his family settle again to their business. Their heads will never cool; the temptations of elections will be for ever glittering before their eyes. They will all grow politicians ; every one, quitting his business, will chose to enrich himself by his vote. They will take the gauging-rod ; now places will be made for
them; they will run to the custom-house quay, their looms and ploughs will be deserted.
So was Rome destroyed by the disorders of continual elections, though those of Rome were sober disorders. They had nothing but faction, bribery, bread and stage plays, to debauch them. We have the inflammation of liquor superadded, a fury hotter than any of them. There the contest was only between citizen and citizen; here you have the contests of ambitious citizens on one side, supported. by the crown, to oppose to the efforts (let it be so) of private and unsupported ambition on the other. Yet Rome was destroyed by the frequency and charge of elections, and the monstrous expense of an unremitted courtship to the people. I think, therefore, the independent candidate and elector may each be destroyed by it; the whole body of the community be an infinite sufferer; and a vicious ministry the only gainer. Gentlemen, I know, feel the weight of this argument; they agree that this would be the consequence of more frequent elections, if things were to continue as they are.. But they think the greatness and frequency of the evil would itself be a remedy for it; that, sitting but for a short time, the member would not find it worth while to make such vast expenses, while the fear of their constituents will hold them the more effectually to their duty.
To this I answer, that experience is full against them. This is no new thing; we have had triennial parliaments; at no period of time were seats more eagerly contested. The expenses of elections ran higher, taking the state of all charges, than they do now. The expense of entertainments was such, that an act, equally severe and ineffectual, was made against it; every monument of the time bears witness of the expense, and most of the acts against corruption in elections were then made; all the writers talked of it and lamented it. Will any one think that a corporation will be contented with a bowl of punch, or a piece of beef the less, because elections are every three, instead of every seven years ? Will they change their wine for ale, because they are to get more ale three years hence ? Do not think it. Will they make fewer demands for the advantages of patronage in favours and offices, because their member is brought more under their power? We have not only our own historical experience in England upon this subject, but we have the experience co-existing with us in Ireland: where, since their parliament has been shortened, the expense of elections has been so far from being lowered, that it has been very near doubled, Formerly they sat for the king's life; the ordinary charge of a seat in parliament was then
£1,500. They now sit eight years, four sessions: it is now £2,500 and upwards. The spirit of emulation has also been extremely in. creased, and all who are acquainted with the tone of that country have no doubt that the spirit is still growing; that new candidates will take the field ; that the contests will be more violent, and the expenses of elections larger than ever.
It never can be otherwise. A seat in this house, for good purposes, for bad purposes, for no purposes at all (except the mere consideration derived from being concerned in the public counsels) will ever be a first-rate object of ambition in England. Ambition is no exact.. calculator. Avarice itself does not calculate strictly when it games. One thing is certain, that in this political game the great lottery of power is that into which men will purchase with millions of chances against them. In Turkey, where the place, where the fortune, where the head itself, are so insecure, that scarcely any have died in their beds for ages ; so that the bow-string is the natural death of Bashaws, yet in no country is power and distinction (precarious enough, God knows, in all) sought for with such boundless avidity, as if the value of place was enhanced by the danger and insecurity of its tenure. Nothing will ever make a seat in this house not an object of desire to numbers by any means or at any charge, but the depriving it of all power and all dignity. This would do it. This is the true and only nostrum for that purpose. But an House of Commons without power and without dignity, either in itself or its members, is no House of Commons for the purposes of this constitution.
But they will be afraid to act ill, if they know that the day of their account is always near. I wish it were true, but it is not; here again we have experience, and experience is against us. The distemper of this age is a poverty of spirit and of genius, it is trifling, it is futile, worse than ignorant, superficially taught, with the politics and morals of girls at a boarding-school, rather than of men and statesmen ; but it is not yet desperately wicked, or so scandalously venal as in former times. Did not a triennial parliament give up the national dignity, approve the peace of Utrecht, and almost give up everything else in taking every step to defeat the Protestant succession ? Was not the constitution saved by those, who had no election at all to go to, the lords, because the court applied to electors, and by various means carried them from their true interests; so that the Tory Ministry had a majority without an application to a single member? Now, as to the conduct of the members, it was then far from pure and independent. Bribery was infinitely more flagrant. A prede cessor of yours, Mr. Speaker, put the question of his own expulsion